‘Their voice, their stories’: Activist Rev. Al Tysick writes book about Victoria’s unhoused community

CHEK

One of Victoria’s most well-known advocates for the unhoused is releasing a book, taking stories from the streets to public bookshelves.

Reverend Al Tysick has worked on the front lines for more than 30 years. He helped build Our Place on Pandora Ave. in 2007, before that he ran the Open Door, helping those looking for shelter.

RELATED: Champion for Victoria’s most vulnerable Reverend Al Tysick retires

Over that time Tysick compiled a number of stories from his experiences and those he worked with.

“It started as journals that I was writing,” Tysick explained. “I’d come across something and it would touch me and I would write about it, a person would say something to me and I’d write about it.”

He shared these stories with family and friends for years, but it wasn’t until recently the idea of a book with stories from the unhoused community was suggested.

Tysick said his friend, who is an editor by trade, told him he should compile his stories into a book so others can get a better understanding of what is happening on Victoria’s streets.

That’s how Muddy Water: Stories from the Street was born.

“It’s one of the few books that really gives the voice of the poor rather than the voice of the politicians and the doctors, the professors that are getting their PhDs from poverty,” he told CHEK News. “It gets their voice, their stories.”

Watch the report below:

The book is divided into five sections with stories about those in the unhoused community throughout the Capital Regional District.

He said there are a mix of stories from funny and heartwarming to the harsh realities of what people are really going through.

One excerpt of the book reads, “He started sniffing gas when he was 13. He lost contact with his mother, his father, his culture, his family, his language and his tradition.”

Another story articulates the time Tysick was called by police to check on a tent in the Inner Harbour. There, he met a woman who was diagnosed with cancer, with only six months to live, and her two brothers.

Tysick said they travelled from Italy because it was the woman’s dream to visit Canada. Before he left the trio, they asked for a blessing.

Tysick knelt down with them, putting his hand in nearby muddy water, and blessed them with the sign of the cross on their foreheads.

“That’s where the name of the book came from,” he explained.

Jordan Cooper, Tysick’s son, said this is an important book, especially for those living in Victoria.

“I think it’s a very raw, compelling account of some of his time working with folks on the streets,” Cooper said.

He added he hopes others feel as inspired by his father reading this book, as he has been his entire life.

Cooper followed in his father’s footsteps and is currently working as the director of services at Our Place.

“The biggest reason why I work here at Our Place, and I’ve gotten into this work is because of Al and him modelling that relationship building with folks and how one person can make a big difference for folks,” said Cooper.

The book is currently available for purchase online on Amazon. Tysick said copies should be hitting local bookstore shelves in the near future.

The author said all the proceeds from sales will be donated to Our Place.

“This book is about those people, they created the book,” Tysick said.

Mackenzie Read

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